5 Ways Fairtrade Contributes to the UN Sustainable Development Goals

Kady Waylie, Cotton Farmer from Senegal || Image: The Fairtrade Foundation

By Valerie Hutterer | News
Posted Oct 19, 2016

October is Fairtrade Month. Not just for coffee and bananas, fairtrade labels can now be found on linens, clothing, footwear and personal care products. Seeking and buying fairtrade can also contribute to UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  The UN General Assembly adopted the SGDs, an ambitious set of 17 all-encompassing global goals with 169 targets to combat poverty and achieve sustainable development.

Fairtrade works globally to bring lasting and positive change to the lives of the farmers and garment workers and those of their communities. Over the last 25 years, the fairtrade model has proven that it can be an active game-changer, enabling producers to build strong, democratic organizations, productive businesses and fairer workplaces. Their strong standards in production and trade are a key ingredient in making value chains work for small farmers and workers, increasing transparency and accountability and helping to protect the most vulnerable against trade-related exploitation.

While all of the goals are relevant to Fairtrade producers, Fairtrade has a particular role in those most closely related to trade in export supply chains.

In Bangladesh garment workers earn £44 a month, just 1/4 of the living wage. Ending poverty is central to fairtrade’s mission.  The Fairtrade Textile Standard focuses on the implementation of living wages.According to Fair-trade.net, a living wage is:

Remuneration received for a standard work week by a worker in a particular place sufficient to afford a decent standard of living for the worker and her or his family. Elements of a decent standard of living include food, water, housing, education, health care, transport, clothing, and other essential needs, including provision for unexpected events.

Since 80% of garment workers are women the fast fashion issue is mostly a women’s issue. To increase gender equality, a growing number of fairtrade cooperatives have introduced quotas for women’s participation and initiatives to create a more enabling environment for women. The fairtrade standards themselves define an aim for gender equality and empowerment. Fairtrade businesses do not discriminate based on gender, race, national origin, religion, caste, disability, sexual orientation, union membership, political affiliation, age, marital, or health status.

Fairtrade principles include fighting the root causes of child labour and proactively preventing the abuse and exploitation of children. The Fairtrade Textile Standard also sets requirements for workplace safety, conditions of employment include requirements related to working hours and overtime, employment contracts and temporary employment. The Standard encourages companies to develop youth apprenticeship or trainee programs for young workers (of legal working age).

By allowing business to better communicate their ethical credentials and helping consumers find sustainable products, fairtrade’s certification is key. Fairtrade brings together thousands of communities and millions of consumers who are committed to buying sustainably from fairtrade sources, improving the lives of farmers and workers alike. A sustainable lifestyle is essential for our future. If global population reaches 9.6 Billion by 2050 we will need three planets to sustain current lifestyles.


Fashion is the second most polluting industry on earth. The intent of the environmental requirements is to reduce negative impacts on workers and environment by controlling chemical use and practices. This includes a list of prohibited materials specific to textile production, banning substances of high concern, including carcinogenic, highly toxic and substances that may be injurious to human health and reproduction.

Positive buying and shopping for ethical products not only contributes to the SDG’s but also supports progressive governments and companies that believe in fair working conditions and saving the environement. How can you not want to be a part of that?

See also: Sustainable Development Goals and Fairtrade: The Case for Partnership


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